Tuesday 16th July 2019,

Jaguar D-Type 3.4 1954 – 1957

For the 1954 season Jaguar rolled out the eye-catching and revolutionary D-type. Apart from the power-train, disc brakes and running gear it was a totally new concept. Many of the design team had spent the war years designing aircraft. They invested the D-type with their knowledge and experience.

The team built the car on an aluminium monocoque `tub` and used an alloy sub-frame to mount the front suspension and engine. The rear suspension was mounted direct to the tub`s rear-end. Deformable fuel cells were built into the monocoque. Malcolm Sayer used his aircraft-building talent to design a beautiful aerodynamic body out of aluminium. Sayer wanted the frontal area reduced, a task that fell to Wally Hassan and Bill Haynes. Their idea was to dry-sump the engine and lean it over at 8 degrees from the vertical. This lowered the bonnet height to Sayer`s satisfaction.

The Jaguar C-type had always been unstable at high speed in a straight line. Sayer`s answer was to put a vertical aero-fin behind the driver`s head. Problem solved. In 1955 the D-type was given a longer nose and a new cylinder- head with bigger valves.

1954 Le Mans;

Jaguar entered three cars. The fuel for the race was mysteriously contaminated with dirt and sand. By the time the cars were running properly the best Hamilton and Rolt could do was finish one lap behind the winning Ferrari.

1955 Le Mans;

Sadly the race is remembered for the horrific loss of life when a works Mercedes 300 SLR crashed into the crowded grandstand opposite the pits, killing over 80 people. At the time of the accident Juan Manuel Fangio was leading for Mercedes. The team principle, Alfred Neubauer, gravely stood at the trackside and held out the black flag, retiring the entire team. When the final death-toll was confirmed, Mercedes retired from all competition. The other teams, including Jaguar, continued to race. The chequered-flag was taken by the works D-type of Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb though nobody really cared.

1956 Le Mans;

Only one of the three works cars finished, in 6th place. The winner was the Flockhart / Sanderson D-type entered by `Ecurie Ecosse`, a Scottish team with a large amount of works support.

1957 Le Mans;

Jaguar did not enter a works team, preferring to support Ecurie Ecosse. Ecurie Ecosses`s D-types finished first and second. In fact D-types took five of the first six places.

For the 1958 the Le Mans engine capacity limit was reduced to 3litres, killing off the 3.4 engine. Rising to the challenge Jaguar produced a 3litre XK engine but it was never reliable. By 1960 the car was un-competitive. Spare rolling chassis were used to make the Jaguar XKSS, a road-legal version of the D-type.

The American story;

The only truly international US racing team in the late 1950s was that of Briggs Cunningham. He struck a deal with Bill Lyons whereby Lyons would sell him the Jaguar works cars on the understanding that Cunningham`s team would be exclusively equipped with Jaguars and that he would stop trying to build his own car. The deal was done and Briggs Cunningham won a lot of high-profile races in the US with the D-types.

It also did Jaguar sales in the US no harm at all. The thinking behind Lyons` sale conditions was sound but when Carroll Shelby produced the Cobra, it cost Jaguar a lot of US sales.

It seems a long time ago (1967) when I was fortunate enough to own a D-type. I raced it for a season in club racing and sold it finally for £1700! I only paid £1500 for it! If only I had had a crystal ball! I used the proceeds to buy a `64 Cobra, that`s another story! Aah! Those were the days!

Jaguar D-Type 1954-1957
Body Type2 seater roadster (actually only 1 seater)
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Cargo VolumeVirtually none
Engine3.4l XK Jaguar DOHC Hemispherical
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement3442 cc210 cui
Power186 Kw250 bhp6000 RPM
Torque328 Nm242 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight289 bhp/t
Top Speed261 km/h162 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph4.7 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight864 kg1905 lb
GD Star Rating
Jaguar D-Type 3.4 1954 - 1957, 10.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

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